Bottom Line: Researchers examined if a mouth rinse to detect human papillomavirus (HPV) DNA might be associated with helping to predict risk of recurrence of head and neck squamous cell cancer and death. This study included 396 adults with head and neck squamous cell cancer of the mouth or throat, of which 202 patients had HPV-positive cancers. The adults were tested for the presence of HPV DNA with an oral rinse at various times. After completing cancer treatment, the repeated detection of HPV DNA identical to their tumor type in oral rinses was associated with a higher risk of cancer recurrence and death. The typical follow-up time of about two years in this study may have underestimated the associations between the persistence of HPV and cancer recurrence. More research is needed but these findings suggest HPV DNA may be a promising biomarker to understand cancer treatment response and future risk of progression.
Authors: Maura L. Gillison, M.D., Ph.D., University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, and coauthors
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